Water is one of my favorite things to photograph, but like all things, to do it well you have to be willing to get a little uncomfortable. That means getting in! Being mindful of tides and the swiftness and depth of a river are real things you have to consider before jumping in. Keeping your camera secured around your neck is important too. Since my tripod is aluminum, I am not concerned with it rusting. The following are different examples of how I got wet to get my shot.

River:

Unless there are several places for your eye to bounce along, photographing a river from the the side on a bank or beach places a static band across your page and can create a boring image. There are exceptions, but in general this kind of side to side composition doesn’t intrigue the viewer. When facing this very problem down at one of my favorite parks, I decided to step in. I found a great big mossy rock in the middle of this stream and set up my camera on a tripod with my 11-16 Tokina wide angle lens.

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Upstream:

Never mistake good subject matter for a good photograph. With this next image, I struggled trying to get all the logs, foliage and flowing water to look as interesting as the idea of all these elements. I was shooting from a comfortable place along a bank and I was trying every angle I could, high, low, close and wide, but failed to capture an image that was worth keeping. Like my river shot, I decided to get in the water and try shooting from an angle that captured this scene downstream. The results were worth the extra five minutes removing my socks I think.

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Waterfalls:

This one you want to be extra cautious with. Waterfall areas will often have barriers and restricted areas that you want to stick to for your safety. The next image is from a very popular and heavily photographed waterfall in my city. There is a bridge spanning the outflow of this falls and good places to take a photograph. I wanted to try placing more water in the foreground of my image. I found a path that went under the bridge that brought my angle closer to what I wanted. I tried a few shots along the pebble beach but I wasn’t quite getting what I wanted. The water was shallow enough that day and I was able to step in and get just the right angle that included water and a few rocks in my final photograph.

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As always, make sure if you’re shooting wide not to let a leg of your tripod or remote cable get in the shot. Wear waterproof boots or go barefoot if you are certain it is safe to do so. Consider your angle and composition and try several exposures. Getting your feet wet can lead to some outstanding shots you wouldn’t achieve standing safely on dry land. With a little planning and caution, these small comfort risks will help your portfolio grow and shine.

Happy Shooting,

Shawn Pagels

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